How to Follow a Rugby Diet
Here is what you need to do...
The first step to a healthy diet is to read up on some nutritional literature. The internet has tonnes of resources explaining good nutrition, but having some concrete diet plans can help a lot. There is no one super diet that is going to save everyone, it all comes down to personal accountability and moderation.
Most people would describe my diet as either "caveman diet" or "paleo diet" or "hunter-gatherer diet". These diets are based on the idea that humans were healthier and happier before they invented agriculture, thus any food that wouldn't be found in nature isn't included. These diets are very strict on what is allowed and not allowed, but I use them more as guidelines, not the ten commandments. For the rest of this article, I'm going to outline the major food groups and describe when and how they should be consumed.
Vegetables- veggies are arguably the most important food group and often the most ignored. Greens (and not so green) veggies are loaded with fiber, water, vitamins, and phytochemicals that keep the body in top shape. Veggies should be the most consumed food group of them all. I know a lot of us grew up with the idea that cereals and grains should make up the bulk of our diet but veggies will keep you lean and healthy. Try for about 5 servings a day. Eat these: kale, spinach, peppers, broccoli, carrots, celery, and cabbage Corn, potatoes, and similar starches should not be considered in the vegetable category
Meat and fish- It is no secret that muscle comes from eating protein. So as a rugby player, lean meats should be a corner stone of the diet, especially during lifting days. Only have about 2 servings of meat or fish per day. Fish should be consumed about 2 times a week. Try tuna one day and salmon the other. Fish is loaded with healthy oils and heaps of protein. Chicken is the staple meat and can be eaten just about everyday. Try limiting red meat to about once a week and try to avoid grain fed beef. Find lean grass fed beef or something a little more exotic like bison meat. Organ meats are especially rich in vitamins but they're not something I eat a lot of.
Fruits- You can't really go wrong when it comes to fruit. When considering the actual forager, fruits are consumed seasonally. Too much fruit can be a bad thing but it takes a lot to reap any negative effects. 3-4 servings a day is perfect. Use fruit for a boost of sugar in the morning or before a run or as a treat after meals instead of a fatty desert loaded with carbs.
Nuts- nuts are definitely under utilized in today's diets. Walnuts, almonds, cashews etc. all contain healthy oils. When coupled with berries they are a great treat and perfect for a mid day snack. Peanuts are technically legumes but are healthy none the less. I usually eat natural peanut butter, that means no added salt, sugar, or oils. Typical jars of peanut butter like JIF are loaded with trans fats and sugars. Eat nuts unsalted and unsweetened for maximum nutritional value.
Grains- Despite what the food pyramid likes to tell us, grains should be consumed sparingly, I try to get about 1-2 servings a day. Brown rice, quinoa, and oats are great sources of energy. White rice, white bread, and pretty much any other bleached flour based processed food are no good. For the athlete, starches like sweet potatoes are a good alternative to breads. Corn should also be considered in this category.
Legumes- Beans are full of proteins and fiber. They are, however, high in calories and should be consumed instead of meat. Black beans, kidney beans, green beans, lima beans, and pinto beans are all great choices.
Water- Drink tons of water!! An active person should be drinking close to a gallon a day!
Dairy- Dairy is more or less a supplemental food group. Eggs, though, are extremely good for a young athlete. Only eat about 1 yellow for every 3 whites though. Greek yogurt is a good source of extra protein. Low fat milk also has some protein.
Difficulties people often experience or parts that need special attention to do it right.
Stay away from processed crap. Think of your diet in terms of color, vitamins, and nutrients. Everything should be fresh and you should be able to tell where it came from. If there are ingredients on the package that don't make sense to you, chances are its just chemical crap that doesn't do anything good for your body. Avoid high fructose corn syrup like the plague. Fruit juices, even 100% juice, should be used sparingly. Though it has the same nutrients as fruit, it lacks the fiber of real fruit and is mostly just concentrated fruit sugar.
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Funny or interesting story about this topic...
Before starting rugby I weighed about 260lbs. I wasn't necessarily fat, at 6'3" I carried it well, but I definitely had some unwanted body fat. I didn't know anything about nutrition and basically ate whatever I felt like eating. My freshman year of college I started going to the gym, running, and tried to be more conscious about what I was eating. My best friends and my girl friend at the time were all vegetarians so I decided to try that out. I was vegetarian for about a year and it helped me loose about 20lbs. It wasn't just the lack of meat from my diet that made me loose weight, but the fact that I was trying to be more health conscious when it came to food.
When did you first do this & how did you get started?
During my 3rd year playing with OSU I started to take some nutritional and medical anthropology courses. I became so interested in the subject matter that for the remainder of my college career I would focus primarily on these subjects. At the time I was living in "the rugby house" and I had a solid corner stone diet. Whole grains, chicken, veggies, and beans were a typical dinner for me. Breakfasts were peanut butter toast (natural peanut butter, no added sugars or oils), fruit, and sometimes eggs or a protein shake. And lunches were typically a repeat of breakfast (the budget and time restraints of a college student doesn't allow for much more). I was eating well and was in great shape. Around this time I was taking a class on hunters and gatherers and I became very interested in the diet aspect of a lot of cultures. I wrote my final paper for the class on Loren Cordain's "Paleo Diet" and adopted a lot of the diet into my life style.